For eighteen fabulous months I was fortunate enough to be living and painting in Sri Lanka. I based myself in the cool of hills overlooking the Royal City of The Golden Tooth, Kandy – only a stroll down through banana plantations and past fascinating boggy ponds graced by wild waterlilies and dragonflies to the nearest tuk-tuk endowed road and thence to the Botanical Garden at Peradeniya. This was a shortish trip well worth taking as the Garden is packed with all sorts of exquisite plants and flowering trees.
In addition to the Garden’s rich botanical treasury another huge attraction for me was the densely populated, noisy, smelly gangland of the giant fruit bat roosts, where uncountable numbers hang upside down on several vast yet unfortunate trees whose leaves are virtually all rubbed off as a result. Every evening at dusk, there was a great flurry of action as huge wings unfurled, rustling and stretching as they fell into the air – a nightly tribal migration composed of thousands of giant fruit bats taking to the cooler air above the adjacent Mahaweli Gangai river. This they use to navigate past Kandy and beyond, to feed through the soft Sri Lankan night on distant forests’ fruits. At dawn they return.
Meanwhile, this utterly ravishing Indonesian native, Cassia nodosa, was well away from the intense action in other parts of the Garden and demanded to be painted in watercolour. I agreed. [ It turned out to be one of a set of three paintings of Flowering Trees ] The soft pinks of the fragrant blossoms draw butterflies, hummingbirds and painters. Graphium nomius and Valeria ceylanica often fly nearby – these specimens were kindly lent to me by my charming, mad-keen-entomologist, Sri Lankan neighbour © Frances Livingstone 2018